(Suzdal – 09.08.2005) The decisions of the Hierarchical Synod of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church, which met on September 5, 2005, were released in parts today to media and administration centers in Russia and North America, numbered Protocol #52, September 5, 2005. The decisions include the deposition of Fr Gregory (Lourie) of St Petersburg and the elevation of Bishop Hilarion of Smeli to the rank of Archbishop.
The majority of the text answers objections made by Fr Gregory and his defenders in ten different letters sent within days of Fr Gregory’s official notification of suspension two weeks ago. The argument is centered around whether Imyaslavie (“name-worshipping”) was formally condemned as a heresy by the Russian Orthodox Church. After an analysis of the legality of a condemnation of an individual publicly preaching such a position, the document shifts to the question of Fr Gregory’s activity over the Internet and work with suicidal adolescents. A large number of arguments favoring the deposition of Fr Gregory on the part of Bishops and priests of the ROAC who comprised the commission to study the question of deposing the cleric then follow.
The Synod decided to depose Fr Gregory from the priesthood, leaving him a simple monk. For her part in the events following the suspension, Nun Martha (Senina)– a novice nun in St Petersburg who wrote a scathing letter to the Synod of Bishops in Fr Gregory’s defense– was banned from communion for no less than a year and ordered to remove the monastic habit, returning to lay dress, for a period of examination. Hegumen Theophan (Areskin), who was involved earlier in the controversy but has since retreated from such a defense, was given a stern warning that future involvement in such controversies would lead to deposition from the priesthood. Similar warnings were given to the laypeople involved.
The Synod then commended the work of Archbishop Seraphim of Sukhimi, Bishop Hilarion of Smeli and T.G. Beltchev, a pious laywoman from Switzerland, for their dilligence in restoring the Uspensky Temple as well as the Tsar-Constantine Cathedral.
After this, the Synod lamented the lack of support for the Suzdal Diocesan Administration on the part of the parishes, with Archbishop Theodore of Otradnoe and Borisovsk noting that he had to ask addressees for postage money to send out mailings.
The next item on the agenda was a request by Bishop Irinarch to choose the occasion of Bishop Hilarion of Smeli’s 80th birthday to raise him to the rank of Archbishop. This was accepted by the Synod with the typical three-fold proclamation of worthiness. Afterward a request on the part of a parish in Bulgaria for 15000Euro for building their parish house was examined, and the Synod expressed regret that it could not procure the funds needed. A request by Bp Ambrose to be retired without fault was investigated by the Synod and it was determined to be examined at the next session.
An official English translation of the protocol is forthcoming. NFTU